Find those fun and funky “special” places across the country. Hit the road and discover all the odd roadside attractions that make getting there more than half the fun. Road tripping gives you an excuse to search out hidden gems along your route. Look inside for suggested trips and inspiration to plan your own camping gem journey.
Set in the high mountains of northwestern Colorado, Steamboat Springs offers amazing opportunities for outdoor recreation. From skiing down the slopes of Mount Werner to fly fishing along the Elk and Yampa Rivers, Steamboat truly has it all. This family-friendly town has stunning alpine views, dozens of hiking trails, and a charming main street that’s filled with specialty shops and boutiques.
Long ago, during its time as a fur trapping and ranching area, Steamboat Springs took its name from a spring along the Yampa River that chugged like a churning steamboat. Development has silenced the spring, but it still flows, emanating a slight sulfur smell on the northern side of town.
Today, Steamboat is famous for its skiing, snowboarding, and ski jumps. The town is just three hours west of Denver, far enough to escape the large crowds, but close enough for a pleasant drive. Skiers can visit the many runs on Mount Werner, or head to the runs on the other side of the Yampa, where you’ll find Olympic-level ski jumps and specialty courses. Emerald Mountain is also well known as a cross-country and skate-skiing hotspot, with many groomed trails to choose from.
As the snow melts, the town shifts gears from snow sports to hiking, mountain biking, and rock climbing. Right in town you’ll find the wooded Spring Creek Trail that heads uphill from the High School. Many locals bring their dogs to walk on this trail every day, so it’s a great place for canine socializing. Just behind the Post Office on Oak Street, you’ll find the road that leads to Fish Creek Falls, a dramatic sheet of tumbling water. Take the trail to the base of the falls, or hike above it to the viewing platform.
For a longer day hike, the Mad Creek Trail follows a tributary of the Elk River, a waterway that’s known as one of the best fishing spots in all of Colorado. Anglers love the Elk River for its un-crowded conditions, clear-flowing waters, and abundance of trout. Mountain biking is popular on Emerald Mountain and as a summertime activity on Mount Werner, where the views of the valley below are absolutely breathtaking.
For a short day trip, you can head to the Zirkels mountain wilderness or take a high-summer jaunt into the Flat Top Mountains, hailed by many as the most incredible mountain range in the state. About two hours to the west, you’ll find Dinosaur National Monument, a rugged canyon-scape at the convergence of the Yampa and the Green Rivers. If you enjoy 4-wheeling, be sure to take the Echo Park Road from the ridge top to the Yampa riverbank. Driving this road gives you the rare chance to travel by car through a canyon, passing down through layers of red clay and pale sandstone. Be on the lookout for petroglyphs throughout the monument, especially on the Echo Park Road.
In addition to rugged outdoor sports, Steamboat Springs also offers a number of luxurious attractions. You can soak in a natural hot spring at Strawberry Park, surrounded by green mountains, or wander through town, exploring the women’s clothing boutiques. Even the soothing pool at the town recreation center is fueled by natural springs! You’ll find a number of deluxe spas at the foot of Mount Werner, and amazing culinary delights at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, Fiesta Jalisco, and Blue Sage Pizza.
This corner of Colorado is filled with wildlife, some of which you might spot from the highway during your drive to and from Steamboat Springs. Watch for bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, elk herds, and mule deer. Furry marmots might scamper across the hillside, past prairie dogs and tiny pikas. Bird lovers can watch for colorful western tanagers, golden eagles, ospreys, and brilliant hummingbirds.
- Category: Camping Gems